Essay on The Value Of Physical Beauty

Essay on The Value Of Physical Beauty

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The value of physical beauty in literature is often hyperbolized and used as a signifier for romance, ingenuity and moral goodness. The subversion of this trope however, gives forth a more nuanced conversation on the role of physical appearance in society and more specifically how it connects to intellect and destiny. The reinvention of the subversion of beauty to reveal its connection, or lack there of to intellect, and to a tragic fate, can be seen along four texts of different genres, generations and social contexts. The Tempest by William Shakespeare (1611) negates the idea that physical beauty is connected to high intellect and knowledge, The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope (1712) subverts a whole society that over-values physical appearance and under-values intellectual substance, Billy Budd by Herman Melville (1924) explores the trope that beauty equals innocence and thus, a lack of knowledge and Wide Sagasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1966) subverts the idea that physical appearance is a woman’s mere value and thus, can be her only savior.
William Shakespeare in The Tempest negates the idea that physical beauty is a signifier for something greater than mere aesthetic value. Through the deformed, savage-like character Caliban, Shakespeare explores the idea that moral character and intelligence are qualities that are frequently wrongly judged by someone’s physical appearance.
Caliban’s physical descriptions are often charged with diction that describes him as non-human, undomesticated and animal-like such as “freckled whelp” (Shakespeare I, 2)— which connotes his different and flawed appearance by being “freckled” and his bestial nature by being a “whelp”. Furthermore, diction to connote Caliban is the offspring of a witch or ...


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...ems to be subtlety and dramatic comedy surrounding the characterization of some characters like Belinda— the nymphs’ priorities are laid out front and clear by Pope. He describes their life to be “predestined to the gnomes’ embracing” and their “vacant brains” crowded with “gay ideas” (Pope I, 80). This characterization seems to mimic the broader revocation of the whole society itself, where women live a life dedicated to male acceptance— “never once offends” (Pope II, 12) and their minds are absent of any opinionated thought —“a sprightly Mind disclose” (II, 9). Through the hyperbolized treatment of beauty and mockery of vanity, Pope successfully subverts physical beauty’s importance by revealing the character’s foolishness the same way the contrast of Caliban’s beastiality and his sophisticated poetic verse subverts the connection of ones appearance to intellect.

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